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  1. Victoria Concordia Crescit When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and on through to the 90’s, supporting a football team was totally different to today. Then you could get a ticket to a match a lot easier except for the big games and even then you would probably get in. We had terraces and they would squeeze you in. Your only connection other than that was what you read in newspapers and magazines and watching the TV. There was virtually no merchandise to buy other than programmes and scarves. It wasn’t a huge financial expenditure. Now it is. The harmony referenced in the above motto could be felt by the fans. Victory would come through the alliance between fans and teams. You could always buy one of these What do you have the possibility to buy now that you couldn’t then? TV subscriptions is one area but in the old days you almost never saw a live match and except for a licence fee it was free. Going to the Arsenal regularly was out of the question for most people outside the London area. A small number of visits per year was what you could hope for. Most didn’t even get that. If you read the Arsenal forums you get many lifelong Arsenal fans who have never seen a game live. And I will get into the rest of what you can buy later. A cerebral connection If you live in Bulgaria, at the moment, you could be looking at a 1000 pounds to go to a match when everything is factored in. Certainly 400-500 pounds would be a low enough figure. Outside Europe it could be far higher. But when I was growing up flights were mad expensive even from Ireland and only the rich could afford them. A ferry and bus/train with a long time travel was the only real option. I did it a few times from Dublin but if you lived outside Dublin the time would be even longer. And one of these My point is that your connection to the Arsenal, in those days, was mostly in your head. You rarely saw a live match even on TV. You got very short highlights most weeks and you read whatever you could. Nowadays it is not too difficult to see every match, even friendlies and minor cups. You can see the Arsenal live up to twice a week. You see angles and perspectives unheard of in the old days. If you lose concentration at a live attendance and a goal goes in, you immediately look for the TV screen to see what happened. This was impossible. If you missed it, you missed it. Buy, buy, buy Now there are obviously many in Bulgaria who have never watched a match in the grounds and unless they join this club, they probably never will. But they can join Arsenal and buy merchandise as much as they like. I could not join Arsenal growing up or buy anything as there was nothing to buy. Why not sleep in an Arsenal bed? This led to what I would regard as a big difference between a modern day fan and what I experienced. I would watch pretty much any football that was on TV and it still wouldn’t have taken up a significant amount of my time. Nowadays the only essential viewing is the Arsenal for me as to watch lots of matches would lead to domestic problems. You could potentially watch football at any moment, never surfacing from your couch. But it does mean that I am nowhere near as good on other teams as I used to be. I could and still can, rattle off the first eleven of most of the top teams of my era. It is a far bigger challenge to do so now. So many things you can buy So now, you have live matches, club memberships, TV subscriptions, merchandise, programmes, star tours, museum visits, team events, the list goes on. You could be spending a large amount of your salary on the Arsenal, 10,000 pounds+ would be possible for some people in a year. Suits you, Sirs Even travelling to a few matches growing up, I doubt if I broke 100 pound in a year. In the 80’s merchandise started appearing. In the 90’s, Sky invented football and the fans money was under serious attack. Football teams went from having a dodgy local businessman as chairman to the modern phenomenon of dodgy international businessmen, corporations and even countries, all extremely unpalatable owners to me. They have put their hands in our pockets and are constantly trying to extract more and more. And succeeding, I may add. Your support costs you In the old days, your loyalty was to your team. Support meant you cared, you knew a lot about your team, you would, if they came to your locality or Ireland, in my case, get out and watch them but it wasn’t such a drain on your resources. So, while the first part of the previous sentence is true, nowadays, if you let them, your team takes a lot more than your support. It removes your cash to an extent that might be uncomfortable to married people. Tea tastes nicer from an Arsenal mug You can be dressed head to toe in the Arsenal, every part of you bearing the cannon. I am wearing the socks which were presented to me by this club. You can drink out of mugs (ditto for me), pint glasses (also ditto), sleep on an Arsenal duvet, count out your Arsenal souvenirs every night like Silas Mariner, and probably be surrounded by red and white all the time. Honesty might help us if not the big bosses This was not possible when I was a kid. Your support was to the team, not to those extracting cash. Have we lost something along the way? Sadly I say yes. That purity of the supporters being for the team is now gone, replaced by being for the giant entity called Arsenal. Maybe I am the only one that feels sorrow about this change. We have a lot more access, but only by releasing a lot of our salary to an American conglomerate. When did we decide that an American corporation should be the Arsenal? ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ means ‘Victory grows out of harmony’. Not any more for the supporters of any big football club. Victory comes out of agreeing to hand over a substantial sum to your team so they can continue to challenge for that same Victory. That is the new reality. Perhaps we should change our motto to “Victoria ex pecunia”. At least that would be honest.
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